The harvest in New England is here, and there's tons of amazing produce coming out of our farm fields and gardens. While there are numerous ways to prepare, cook, preserve, and maximize the bounty, baking with vegetables is a healthful* (*debatable...) way to get even more produce into your diet. If you're headed to a potluck, cooking or baking with kids, or just want a way to have a healthful-ish treat on hand, check out my go-to, simple baking with veggies recipes.
As they say, "Eat your veggies.” You’re welcome:
Recipe: Chocolate Beet Cupcakes
- 1 large or 2 medium cooked beets
- 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used coconut [carton, not in the can])
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 cup melted unrefined coconut oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 generous cup of flour (I used a gluten-free all-purpose blend, but white or whole spelt, or unbleached regular wheat flour will work too)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 2 Tbls or more of water, beet cooking liquid (if you boil them), or extra unsweetened milk
- Before you do anything, cook your beets! Roast or boil - it’s up to you. The goal: fully cooked/fork tender.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a cupcake pan with baking cups and set aside.
- Once your beets are cooked and still slightly warmed, puree beets in a blender or food processor. You can add a little water, beet cooking liquid, or unsweetened milk by the tablespoon to thin out the cooked beets. You want a puree, not a smoothie. Scoop out or pour a 1/2 cup of the pureed beets and set aside.
- Whisk together the non-dairy milk and vinegar in a measuring cup or bowl, and set aside for 5 minutes to curdle and make a sort of buttermilk.
- Add the coconut sugar, melted coconut oil, vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup beets and carefully whisk or beat until combined and foamy.
- In a bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to remove any lumps.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Beat (by hand or with a mixer)/combine until no lumps remain.
- Pour batter into lined cupcake pan, filling each a 3/4 of the way full. Bake 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
- Once cooled, frost or eat as is!
Recipe: Dark Chocolate Sweet Potato Frosting
- 1 large sweet potato, roasted
- 8-10 oz. of dark chocolate (chips or chopped bar chocolate - the darker the better)
- a pinch of sea salt
- 1 Tbl vanilla extract
- Scoop out and slightly mash the roasted sweet potato from the skin and place in a small to medium sauce pan.
- Bring the sweet potato mash to a simmer (you can add a little bit of water or unsweetened non-dairy milk to thin out, but only 1-2 Tbls at most) and remove from heat.
- Add the dark chocolate, and stir until smooth. (If you want a super smooth texture, you can put the mixture in a food processor or use an immersion blender.)
- Let it cool, stirring occasionally, until the frosting is at room temperature and spread on your cupcakes/cake (or maybe transfer to a container and store in your refrigerator for up to a week and eat by the spoonful…)
I get a few good-natured digs from friends and family who think I'm a little "crunchy." You know the type - certain Portlandia sketches, this crunchy mama spoof, and pretty much any food-related post on Stuff White People Like are a little too accurate. "Rabbit food" often describes what we cook and eat. When I was first called "crunchy granola" (hi, Christina!), I didn't know quite how to feel about the term, but I've learned to tone it down a bit and, ultimately, embrace it.
So, why this reflection? I'm going to sound like every other annoying New Englander when I write this, but it's been a rough winter. I just want it to go away. I tried and still try to be Zen about it ("Spring's just around the corner, Al!!"), but this has been a lame season. The local vegetable options are becoming slightly boring. Sorry, roots. I also have zero interest in baking again after the holidays, especially after the dozens of cookies that I decided to make as part of a Simply Smiles fundraiser. (I don't regret it - I won a trip! Thank you! But, I'll need to rethink the best mode of incentivizing in the future...)
But, as with most things, you don't get anywhere by complaining. You're a total bummer to be around, so that's enough of my complaints. Exercise and food are two easy ways to beat the winter blues, and, even if you're on a health kick, you can still have satisfying, nourishing, mood-boosting snacks. Without further hesitation, here are two tasty recipes: No-bake Apple Butter Bites and Chocolate Alternative Squares - perhaps the crunchiest recipes ever posted on SWYF. (Think homemade Larabars and Mounds bars!) You may not have every ingredient on hand, but the next time you venture out into the world and reach for less healthful items, consider these recipes. Get crunchy!
(Oh, and if it's possible to reach a penultimate level of crunchiness, I should add that as I write this, I'm rockin' out to Pete Seeger [Is that possible? OK, maybe a toe-tap or two.] and eating hummus with carrots for lunch. You're welcome.)
Chocolate Alternative Squares (I was first turned onto these by my friend and former neighbor Kristin Hamilton. They're like glorious, little coconut-y brownies that are actually good for you!)
- 1 cup dates (pits removed, of course!)
- 1 cup nuts or seeds (any combination works)
- 1/4 cup cacao or cocoa
- 1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
- coconut oil, melted
- In a food processor, combine the dates, nuts/seeds and coconut flakes until finely ground.
- Drizzle in coconut oil until the mixture just begins to hold together. This is usually 1-2 Tbl of oil.
- Press the mixture into an 8" pan, cover and refrigerate or freeze for 1-2 hours.
- When ready to eat, cut into bite-sized squares. Store in your refrigerator or freezer for a longer shelf-life.
No-bake Apple Butter Bites (adapted from Delicious Living)
- 2 cups almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds and/or sesame seed
- 1 cup oats (to make oat flour, which is just ground oats!)
- 1/4 cup ground flaxseeds (you can grind whole flaxseeds yourself...and save money)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, or to taste
- pinch of coarse sea salt
- 2 Tbl honey, agave or maple syrup
- 2/3 cup apple butter
- Place nuts and/or seeds and oats in a food processor until roughly ground.
- Add flaxseeds, cinnamon and salt; pulse to mix.
- Pulse in honey or other liquid sweetener until the mixture just holds together.
- Remove 1/3 cup of the mixture and set aside in a bowl.
- Stir in apple butter to remaining, larger amount of the mixture.
- Roll into walnut-size balls and roll in reserved oat-nut mixture. Place on a lined baking sheet.
- Refrigerate 1-2 hours. Serve chilled.